Three reporters and two activists from Myanmar have been arrested in Chiang Mai for illegal entry and face possible deportation, the reporters’ news organisation and local police said yesterday.
Foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat later said they were seeking a solution to the case.
“Thai authorities concerned are coordinating to find possible humanitarian solutions to this case,” Mr Sangrat told reporters.
Broadcaster DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) said the five were arrested on Sunday and it appealed to Thai authorities not to deport them to Myanmar, where the news organisation has been banned by the junta.
“Their life will be in serious danger if they were to return,” said Aye Chan Naing, DVB’s executive director, in a statement, which also appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for help.
The statement said they had fled the army crackdown in Myanmar after the 1st February coup, during which dozens of journalists have been among thousands of people arrested. DVB and several other independent media organisations had their licences revoked. The Oslo-based editor said the group was to appear in court yesterday.
Thapanapong Chairangsri, the head of police in the San Sai district outside Chiang Mai city, said that five Myanmar citizens had been arrested for entering the country illegally and were brought to court yesterday. He said they would be deported in accordance with the law, but added that because of the coronavirus outbreak they would be held in detention for 14 days before being handed to immigration authorities.
DVB started as an exile media outlet during the previous junta, broadcasting uncensored reports on TV and radio. It moved into Myanmar in 2012, a year after the military dictatorship loosened its grip.
Despite losing its broadcast licence in March, it has continued to report, posting regular updates on its Facebook page about the daily protests and crackdowns across the country. It also broadcasts via satellite television – a move that the junta attempted to halt when it banned homes from having satellite dishes.
In an emailed statement, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand said, “These five individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB, and under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar. Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection, and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand. The world is watching what the Thai authorities do in this important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region, and for the protection of those fleeing the junta’s brutal crackdown on independent media and civil society.”